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Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words letters@seattletimes.com.

March 8, 2010 at 3:58 PM

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Food fight: genetic modification vs. organic

Posted by Letters editor

New alfalfa seed limits roundup use

The Times should be applauded for its evenhanded article covering genetically modified alfalfa [“Monsanto’s altered alfalfa on verge of a new season,” Business, March 2]. The modified alfalfa seed Monsanto wants to market has their popular weedkiller “Roundup” built into it, enabling farmers to avoid massive spraying of Roundup on their farms.

Roundup has been in use for a long time. This new seed will limit the dispersion of Roundup’s active ingredient, a benefit for those opposed to insecticide on principle.

As for the farmers who are afraid they will be forced to buy it, Monsanto doesn’t have a monopoly on alfalfa seed; If the market demands an unmodified seed, the market will find a way of delivering it. As for the risk of Roundup-resistant weeds: If they exist, they’ll exhibit this same trait even if Roundup is sprayed on fields rather than built into the seed.

Ultimately, Drex Gauntt summarizes the reality that farmers face: If customers specifically do not want to buy alfalfa grown from such seed, then they won’t buy it and farmers will simply grow traditional varieties.

— Michael Eisen, Seattle

Toxicity, death allegedly linked to modification

Monsanto wants to sell “Roundup Ready” alfalfa. This is wrong. In North America we are altering our DNA from consuming these crops or when we eat the animals that eat these crops.

Genetically modified organisms are linked to toxins, allergies, infertility, infant mortality, immune dysfunction, stunted growth, death and other unexplainable illnesses. But Monsanto and the USDA are lying and covering up. It’s all about money and owning all the seed in the world.

— Mary Emmick, Issaquah

Organic food reduces environmental footprint, obesity

On the news the other night they compared the cost of feeding the world with conventionally grown food versus organic — and conventional won out

I disagree. First of all, the world — especially the First World — consumes too many animal products, with the Third World countries quickly coming on board. These foods are very expensive to produce and consume large areas of land for growing the food, vast amounts of water, not to mention electricity and gasoline, before they end up on your plate.

When served in a fast-food restaurant, these foods are usually accompanied by sugar-laden soft drinks and French fries, grown conventionally with pesticides and cooked in hot oil. This brings about another expense: health-care costs.

The world population is getting fatter and with that comes another set of problems: diabetes, heart disease, and so on, which puts a huge burden on already skyrocketing health-care costs. Also, our conventional food supply is loaded with additives to make food taste better, which only encourages people to eat more!

Conventionally grown products not only contain pesticides, antibiotics and hormones, but the animal products — such as beef — are raised primarily on corn, which is not their natural diet.

So if we think of long-term costs, organic will win out.

— Sandra Tobler, Lynnwood

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